The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Ski Resort

The perfect ski holiday begins with choosing the best ski resort for you and your party. Picking between all the different destinations can be stressful, especially with so many things to consider. At last count there were 3,597 ski resorts across Europe alone, each with different atmospheres, specialities and facilities. We know how difficult it can be, that’s why we’ve put together this guide to help all types of holiday-makers; from couples looking for a romantic getaway to groups looking for the best après-ski. Every ski resort has its secret, find out each destination’s lesser known specialities.

For families with children…  Méribel

The resort of Méribel is one of the most incredible holiday destinations to visit as a family, especially those with younger children. With mysterious and enchanting forests, authentic buildings and a jam-packed programme of entertainment, it’s the ideal place to make life-long memories. Your children can find their snow feet in Oxygène’s ‘Magic Fun Factory’ lessons, where kids aged 4 to 13 can learn to ski in small groups led by a friendly team of instructors. The Magic Garden area (with its own magic carpet) allows children to learn and play in an enclosed environment, with treasure hunts, games and other fun activities. The Oxygène bear is arriving in the Three Valleys and will be around the magic garden to play with the kids this winter… more fun expected!

Adults can rest easy knowing the little ones are in safe hands, allowing you to be free to discover all the mountain has to offer, or relax in one of the ski resort’s many spa and wellness facilities, like the one in Hotel Hélios. And when the kids’ lessons have ended why not visit one of the family zones where you and your family can go in search of the life-size-animal models hidden in the forest, explore the caves and tunnels, or have fun sledging. We also recommend you visit the Inuit Village situated in the Altiport area, where you can build igloos, have snowball fights and play exciting games. After a long day on the slopes, how about a hot chocolate or even a cocktail and tapas at the brand new hotspot of Méribel, the Copiña bar? 

Lesser known secret: Heritage and Culture – Méribel boasts a long history and a varied culture. You can visit an old Baroque style church rebuilt in 1698 and the Museum in Les Allues which presents the valley’s history and traditions.

For romantic couple getaways…  Courchevel

lovers under the snow walking in courchevel

©OT Courchevel

Courchevel is a resort full of history, made up of four villages which are linked by lifts, pistes and roads. Each has its own distinct character, atmosphere and selection of facilities, which are free to travel between. For couples looking for fine dining, luxury accommodation and chic boutiques, Courchevel 1850 is the perfect location. It’s been said to be one of the most prestigious villages in the Alps and offers stunning scenery, immaculate pistes and glamorous activities with romance in mind. The village is also home to some of the Alp’s most reputable designer shops and emporiums.

The Aquamotion centre is the largest mountain waterpark in Europe and features relaxing sea caves, Turkish baths, spa pools and bubble baths for you and your loved one to spend some quality time together. The spa and wellness area in Hotel le Chabichou is relaxing and has beauty products on offer to pamper you with.

The village has been recently developed and upgraded so the majority of the accommodation here is in fantastic condition. Another benefit of Courchevel is it is one of the easiest resorts to get to being only an hour and twenty minutes away from Chambery airport. It can be accessed in comfort by a private transfer driven by uniformed drivers to begin your romantic getaway in style.

Lesser known secret: Experience night skiing by going along to Courchevel’s Verdons by Night sessions. Taking place on Wednesday evenings throughout the season and free for 3 Valley lift pass holders, you can take the bubble to the mid station and ski on flood-lit snow to the latest tunes played over the sound system.

For the best après-ski…  Val d’Isère

après-ski in la folie douce, partying on ski slopes

©La Folie Douce

Val d’Isère is one of the most popular ski resort for British skiers – with more UK visitors than any other resort in the world. The ski resort is well-loved for its fun, action packed entertainment, brilliant nightlife and access to amazing high-altitude skiing. You have the choice of traditional Savoyard restaurants, fancy bistros, or more affordable dining choices and pubs serving food from across the world. The most famous slope in Val d’Isère, Bellevarde, has an impressive black run which has been featured in a number of tournaments including the Alpine Ski World Championships and even the Winter Olympics.

La Folie Douce is one of the most famous après ski bars in Val d’Isère. From 3pm onwards, skiers and snowboarders can head to the bar which features DJs, live music and even a cabaret show. La Folie Douce is found at the top of the La Daille gondola and is ideal stop-off for those heading back to the resort after a long day on the slopes.

Some of the biggest and best club nights in Val d’Isère happen at the Doudoune. This club features the best sound system in the Alps as well as some surreal décor from the team behind Tomorrowland. World-famous DJs can be often found behind the decks, including David Guetta, Pete Tong and Danny Howard.

Lesser known secret: The best ski run in Europe – only recommended for intermediate to expert skiers, La Vallée Perdue piste is a run through a beautiful canyon setting and is unique in the world of downhill skiing. Take a look at this video of Léo’s Line of the Winter.

For thrill seekers…  Val Thorens

Val Thorens in the highest resort in the Europe with an unbeatable snow record due to its high altitude position. Thanks to its numerous activities, constant quest for improvement and its client satisfaction scores it has just won the coveted prize of  World’s Best Ski Resort for the 4th year.

zip line above val thorens

© OT Val Thorens

The ski resort has been designed to offer doorstep skiing from practically all accommodation options making it perfect for both first-timers and more advanced snow gurus.

There are a number of activities you might want to get involved in, especially if you love an adrenalin rush. You can embark on a wild adventure as you dive under the ice at Lac de Lou, or try ice-driving on the highest ice-racing track in Europe. Why not try paragliding or paramotoring above the valley, or ride on the 1300m zip line across it.

Val Thorens is also home to France’s longest toboggan run (6km long!) over a groomed course of banked turns and varying gradients. You even have the option to have a go in the evening under the stars!

Lesser known secret: Partying & Festivals – Val Thorens is home to a number of festivals throughout the year, including Festi Val Tho and Boarderweek. Similarly to Val d’Isère, it has a La Folie Douce open air club with DJs, live musicians, and exciting performances.

For those looking for on and off-piste activities…  La Plagne

La Plagne continues to be a popular choice for holiday-makers thanks to its varied ski slopes and choice of activities. More experienced skiers will be amazed by the amount of off piste options in La Plagne. Guides are able to take skiers to the best slopes and runs in the area; often skiers are tested on the northern slopes first, before moving on to the cliffs and steeps runs found on the southern runs. If you like dodging trees, there is plenty of opportunity in the forest near the Derby lift.

sledging down La Plagne slopes with Oxygène

© Rémi NGuyen Cao

Oxygène can help you explore the true terrain, offering their experience to help you find the best powder spots in the valley. With an Off-piste and Guiding Lesson, you will receive all the required equipment for off-piste skiing including helmets, protective padding, transceivers, shovels, probes and ABS bags (subject to availability) completely free of charge.

Give ski touring a try and go and explore the mountains before the lifts open, which allows you to experience the tranquility of nature. You can even embark on a snowshoe excursion with specialist routes for newbies to experts.

Lesser known secret: Superludge Derby – La Plagne’s superluge derby offers you the ride of your life in state-of-the-art sledges.

Author : Beth Meakin

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